Major Iraqi Shiite groups from the leading coalition in parliament announced Monday a new political alliance without the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, for the coming January parliamentary election.
The prominent Shiite figure Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the former prime minister in 2005, announced in a statement the formation of the new Iraqi National Alliance to replace the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
The new alliance includes the most influential Shiite party of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the political movement of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and some Sunni and secular independent figures.
Referring to Maliki's Dawa party, Jaafari said the door will be open for those who need longer time to decide whether to join the new alliance, which includes most of the former founders of the UIA, which won 128 seats of the 275-seat parliament in the last 2005 parliamentary election.
Representatives of the groups which joined the new alliance showed up to the media, but Abdul Aziz al Hakim, one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite leaders was absent because he had been hospitalized in Iran for lung cancer.
Earlier, tensions have risen between Maliki and the Shiite parties in the UIA over differences about who would lead the new alliance.
In the country's provincial election earlier this year, Maliki and his supporters stood against the SIIC, which had previously dominated the southern and central Iraqi provinces and made major gains.
Maliki warned in an interview with Egyptian journalists published on his website on Aug. 16 that he will go his own way in the coming January elections if the Shiite bloc, which has dominated political life since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, does not do more to open up to Sunni Arabs and Kurds.